Posts Tagged 'Strings'

The Inspiration behind ABRSM’s Bowed Strings (2020-2023) Syllabus

Guest post by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

ABRSMLogoAfter months of practice and anticipation, performing in a music exam can feel like an adrenaline-fuelled sprint to the finish line that passes in a blur of pieces, scales and musical tests. As an exam board, we know that exams can be stressful, and we at ABRSM want to make sure that learners’ exam experiences are as positive as possible. To make sure that learners can really succeed, we carefully select exam syllabus pieces that allow them to demonstrate their talents. We live for inspiring and challenging learners!

If a music exam is a sprint, then our experience of putting together an exam syllabus is more of an endurance event involving a huge amount of music. We take an open approach to our syllabus creations, and for ABRSM’s Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023) we: ran multiple surveys with teachers, learners and examiners; engaged a variety of strings consultants; and had several ruthless stages of revisions.

BoysDoubleBassRSMFor this Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023), we wanted to focus on the joy of playing with other musicians. Refreshing our syllabus as an instrument family for the first time since 1985 gave us the opportunity to encourage ensemble skills and re-think how our stringed instruments interact. Pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s haunting, melancholy “Chanson triste” appear for all four instruments at Grade 5, so learners can enjoy playing with friends. Our Initial Grade piece “Silent Friends” by Vamoosh series composer Thomas Gregory ensures that your learners can develop ensemble skills from the very beginning of their musical journeys.

GirlViolinEnsemble

We promise that when we put together a syllabus, we don’t just pick our favourite pieces! We are passionate about getting selection right because we know syllabus pieces can have a huge influence on learners and teachers alike. We admit that through the process some of the pieces we select naturally come to have a special place in our hearts. For the first time ever we have included a piece of music we found online! “Sakura,” in a solo arrangement by Japanese-Irish Canadian violinist and composer Maria Kaneko Millar first appeared on YouTube. The piece features on ABRSM’s Grade 8 violin syllabus, and we love that this find connects the syllabus to how many people now interact with music.

If “Sakura” represents a modern way of accessing music, “Echoes” by Marie Dare is a beautiful memento from the past. Marie Dare was a Scottish composer-cellist who, as a teenager, performed as a soloist in a World War I victory concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Queen Alexandra. “Echoes” was found by one of our consultants in the Scottish Music Centre’s archives as a handwritten manuscript, and we believe its appearance on the Grade 5 cello syllabus will be the first time it has ever been published or recorded.

Inspiration for ABRSM syllabuses can also come from the other instruments we examine. You might notice that some of ABRSM’s Singing for Musical Theatre syllabus songs feature here, too! On the violin syllabus alone, you can find songs from some of the biggest hit musicals: from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Grade 1) and Les Misérables (Grade 2) to The Lion King (Grade 3) and West Side Story (Grade 3).

We wish all your learners the very best for their exams!

StringsSyllabus_20-23_final3.jpg

What’s Changing?

What’s new:

  • Refreshed repertoire lists for all four instruments at all grades
  • More choice than ever before, with the lists extended to ten pieces (30 pieces in total per grade)
  • Duet option included for the first time — up to Grade 3
  • Cello exam pieces (Grades 1-5) published for the first time
  • New Initial Grade exam introduced — a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and assessment criteria as ABRSM’s existing graded music exams (three pieces, scales, sight-reading and aural tests)
  • All four instruments at Initial Grade supported with an Exam Pack publication containing nine pieces (three per list) from the syllabus, the scales requirements and sample sight-reading tests
  • A separate publication containing sample aural tests for the Initial Grade also available
  • Revised list structure
  • A focus on cross-string teaching at the lower levels with some of the same pieces being set for multiple instruments. For a list of these pieces see Compatible Pieces.

Syllabus validity:

The Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023 comes into effect on 1 January 2020. This means that:

  • Candidates can begin to present pieces from the new lists;
  • Candidates can continue to present pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus lists during the overlap period (see below);
  • Scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural test requirements remain exactly the same as for the 2016-2019 syllabus.

Syllabus overlap:

From 2020 a one-year overlap period will apply worldwide. This means that all candidates can continue to play pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus until 31 December 2020 (all pieces must be from the same syllabus).

New Initial Grade

Our new Initial Grade for violin, viola, cello and double bass is designed to help beginners measure their progress and celebrate their achievements.

The new Initial Grade is a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and marking criteria as our other graded music exams.

Initial Grade exam packs will be available for violin, viola, cello and double bass. Each book will contain a selection of 9 pieces from the syllabus, including a new commission for all four instruments to play together and many new arrangements.

Scales and sight-reading examples will also be included in the exam packs, and audio recordings will be available for all pieces from the books. A specimen aural tests book for Initial Grade will be available separately.

 


ABRSMLogoABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 630,000 candidates in 93 countries every year. Its mission is to inspire achievement in music. A music publisher for almost 100 years, ABRSM continues to produce a wide range of high-quality sheet music, practice exam papers, instructional and reference books, and recordings to support music teachers, as well as students, from early learners to Diploma level and beyond.

From Sketch to First Edition: The (Almost) Seamless Source Documentation of Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata – from G. Henle Verlag

Guest post by Dr. Norbert Müllemann, Editor-in-Chief of G. Henle Verlag

Many Urtext editions and their sources cross the desk of an editor at the G. Henle publishing house – but we are seldom dealing with such a comprehensive source documentation as is the case with Elgar’s violin sonata. Nearly ever step of the work’s genesis can still be retraced today, and yet in preparing this edition its editors were constantly confronted with unresolved issues – how could that be?

In August 1918 Elgar’s wife, Alice, mentions in her diary: “E. writing wonderful new music, different from anything else of his. A. [i.e., Alice herself] calls it wood magic. So elusive and delicate.” The start of work on this “Wood magic [reference to the location of their country manor near the Fittleworth woods in West Sussex?]” is captured in sketch material. We see literally how Elgar initially recorded crucial themes that he wanted to develop further later on. Before the first accolade of what is apparently the first sketch, you will find Elgar’s remark: “1. idea.” This “first idea” consists of the opening bars of the first movement, and it appears that Elgar actually worked through the entire sonata from “start to finish.” The sketches for the 2nd movement play a special role here, for here he enshrined in music his response to sad news from his circle of friends (a death and an illness). This is existential music that Elgar sent — an exceptional instance — in the sketch stage to the woman friend injured in an accident, so that she could share in the composition: “This I wrote just after your telegram about the accident came & I send you the pencil notes as first made at that sad moment.” The sketches still extant today are in fact snapshots giving us an insight into Elgar’s workshop.

The complete sonata must have developed out of the sketches fairly soon, for as early as September Elgar played through the work with his friend, the violinist William Henry Reed. To do this, he made autograph fair copies of both the violin/piano score and a separate violin part. He evidently needed several attempts here, for extant are autograph drafts coming, so to speak, between sketch and fair copy, and indeed of the second movement (violin part) and the third movement (violin/piano score and viola part). These drafts starts out for all intents and purposes as fair copies, but we can see literally how Elgar begins to correct, deletes, rewrites and finally discards the whole manuscript.

In order to keep track of the many manuscripts, he finally recorded the respective current correction status on the title pages, noting, e.g., “corrected” or “not revised.”

On top of that, the trial play-through with William Henry Reed initiated a new correction process. The fair copies include numerous erasures, corrections in ink, but also in various red and blue pencils. Different hands can be detected as apparently both Elgar and Reed made entries. To complete the confusion, the correction states of the separate violin parts differ from those of the violin parts within the violin/piano scores.

And yet Elgar decided to send these fair copies as engraver’s models to the Novello publishing house. In order to clarify which model is applicable, there are, in addition, indications for the publishing house on the fair-copy title pages, such as “bowing incorrect | engrave from score,”or something similar. And Elgar even went so far as to make the effort to optimize good page turns, stipulating: “to printer: […] As to, ‘turn over’ see pp 3&4, turns over might come anywhere where this mark is placed.”

We see in these autographs a composer who not only meticulously corrected his work, but who also wanted to keep maximum control over the entire production process. And the story is still not over: The differences between the autographs and the first edition clearly show that Elgar very thoroughly  read the galley proofs and even changed details at this stage, adding indications and stipulating, for example, dynamic markings. Fortunately, such a set of proofs with his entries has survived. But this set of proofs does not explain all the changes between autograph and published first edition. If we compare the readings, autograph – galley proof – first edition, then it necessarily follows that he read two more sets of galleys, and that amongst these three galleys, what is extant is the middle set.

As mentioned at the outset, such a complete documentation of the compositional process is rather rare. The first edition ultimately authorized by Elgar appeared in 1919, thus offering a precise score secured by all the rest of the sources. But does that musical text also leave nothing to be desired? When I put it that way, then probably hardly. Here are some examples:

At two places there are ties in the piano part of the autograph fair copy that have not made it into the printed version. Was this Elgar’s oversight? Would he actually have overlooked these ties during three proofreading? I think the tie is more pianistically/musically convincing – what about you?

 

ElgarViolinSonata1

In the autograph tie f-sharp 1 – f-sharp 1

 

ElgarViolinSonata2

In the autograph tie E – E

 

In the fair-copy autograph of the 1st movement, bb. 271/272, there are the following fingerings for the left hand:

 

ElgarViolinSonata3

 

Are they intentionally omitted in the print? Should they “only” be an indication that the slur is not to be played as a tie, but as a legato slur? Has then the information gotten lost in the first edition? Or is it the other way around: Did Elgar mean ties and therefore eradicated the fingering in print to avoid misunderstandings?

And finally the dynamics in the violin right at the end of the sonata. The autograph of the piano score has:

ElgarViolinSonata4

The autograph violin part has:

ElgarViolinSonata5

The printed piano score reads:

ElgarViolinSonata6

(This reading was not changed in the proof) and ultimately the printed violin part reads:

ElgarViolinSonata7

What applies? Has Elgar lost control here of the various stages of correction despite all efforts? All these questions are addressed in the new Urtext edition by G. Henle and passed on to all violinists and Elgar fans.

ElgarViolinSonataCover

Here is a great interpretation of the first movement by violinist Yehudi Menuhin and pianist Hepzibah Menuhin:

 


NorbertMuellemannDr. Norbert Müllemann has been editor-in-chief of G. Henle Verlag since 2017 and has been working as an editor at G. Henle Verlag since 2005. He completed his doctorate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich in 2008 with a thesis titled “Handschriften Frédéric Chopins bis 1830. Studien zur Authentizität, Datierung und Werkgenese” (“Frederic Chopin’s Manuscripts up to 1830: Studies on Authenticity, Dating and Work Origin”). He also studied musicology, German philology and philosophy at the University of Cologne and piano at the Music Conservatory in Cologne.

 

10 Things You Should Know About the Guzheng

If you’re wondering what this harp-table looking instrument is, you’re in the right place. The Guzheng, also known as the Chinese zither, is a wood plucking instrument that can have 21 or more strings.

 

1. Guzheng players wear fake nails.

No, not the ones you can get from the nail salon. These fake nails are actually called finger picks and they’re usually made out of turtle shell. Guzheng players use a cloth tape that was made to tape the picks on the top of their right hand fingers. Not all of them, only the first four. As one increases in level, they would also wear the finger picks on their left hand too. These not only protect your fingers from blistering, but also make sure that the sound comes out bright and not muffled when the string is plucked. Continue reading ’10 Things You Should Know About the Guzheng’


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